Connell to leave at end of '09
Planning director tapped as replacement

LAWRENCEVILLE - County Administrator Jock Connell will step down at the end of the year, the county's chief executive officer said Wednesday.

Commissioners have tapped Planning and Development Director Glenn Stephens to replace him, a move expected to become official Tuesday.

"Jock has been the kingpin, if you will, since my Day 1," said Chairman Charles Bannister, who took office in 2005 when Connell became administrator. "He's performed admirably. ... He's been a great teacher to me."

Stephens, who was not available for comment after hours Wednesday, is expected to take the helm Sept. 1, with Connell helping him to transition into the role by the end of the year.

Connell described the job as county administrator as the "job of a lifetime," but acknowledged the stresses, which include the county's budget battle as well as court battles over the county trash plan and service delivery dispute with cities.

He said he hoped to resolve some of those issues before he leaves office, but wanted the future administrator to have a hand in the outcomes.

Connell, 51, thanked his co-workers, residents, board members and especially his wife, Tina, for standing beside him over the past five years.

"I have been truly blessed to be able to serve Gwinnett County in this capacity. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime," he said.

Connell joined the county government in 1986. After a brief stint in the private sector, he rejoined the county in 1994 as assistant finance director and took the helm of the department the next year. In 2000, Connell became the county's first deputy county administrator before taking the top spot in 2005.

His current contract with the Board of Commissioners runs through 2010, but commissioners are expected to alter the date of retirement next week.

In a press release, he described some of his top accomplishments as maintaining the county's AAA bond rating, implementing a new stormwater utility, beginning construction on the Sugarloaf Parkway extension and completing the new Interstate 85/Ga. Highway 316 interchange.

Under his watch, the county secured a permit to return treated wastewater to Lake Lanier, opened 12 new parks and renovated or expanded 17 more, opened two new libraries and five new fire stations and added 522 police officers.

But Connell said he is most proud of assembling the county's management team, much of which will remain intact despite a retirement incentive being offered in an attempt to cut 250 jobs to trim the county's expenses.

Connell's move wipes the slate in the county administrator's office, as former Deputy County Administrator Susan Lee took a less stressful job for health reasons earlier this year and Deputy County Administrator Mike Comer and Assistant County Administrator Lisa Johnsa will retire in September.

While Comer and Johnsa, as well as Fire Chief Steve Rolader, have said they will accept the retirement incentive, Connell said he would not.

Both Bannister and Connell said they had faith in Stephens, who worked as a county attorney before becoming head of the planning and development department during a time when the department had to be reconfigured because of a severe downturn in the development industry.

"Gwinnett County will be in good hands," Connell said. "Glenn Stephens is knowledgeable and hard-working, and he has remarkable integrity.

"Glenn is certain to put his own touch on the management of the county and the county management team."

Connell's annual salary is $239,000. Stephens' new contract has not been determined.